On October 19, I announced on Facebook that I was going to limit my time on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and eMail to two 30-minute spans of time each day. Seventy-three people responded to that post and 30 folks commented, each one supportive.
Of course they were. Who on Facebook doesn’t want to spend less time? It’s getting to be just like that “What smoker doesn’t really want to stop?” of a decade ago.
We know social media can be a time suck. We don’t need the data. Our own experience tells us.
At least mine did. I was at a point where I went nowhere without my phone. I’d bought my first cell phone for emergencies, but the only emergency use of the phone I can remember was when Woody and I rolled over in our GMC Sierra three years ago!
Instead, slowly — particularly once Smart Phones came out — the phone became a bigger and bigger part of my life. I’d be at supper with Woody or watching Netflix with him and my “Sherwood Forest” ring tone would go off. Here it is.
It was a cool sound. I’d laugh at the herald. “Ooo, someone wants me,” I’d chuckle. And, my curiosity being what it is, how could I not take a quick peek?
The trouble with Facebook (for me) was that there was no such thing as a quick peek. I’d see who had just sent me a text or an email or tagged me in a FB post or a Tweet and then that would lead . . . You know how that goes!
More than the inordinate amount of time I was spending with my phone, it was the sense that my phone had become an obsession with me. I had to have it with me at all times. I had to be sure it was always charged. I had to learn the latest gimmicks with it. I had to have the best apps. I had to, I had to, I had to.
That was the part I wanted to detach from. That “I have to” mentality.
And so, I made the decision. For no particular reason I chose an hour a day, broken into two time slots.
First thing I noticed was that my phone kept calling me. That Sherwood Forest ring tone had to go. Then, I noticed how pulled I was to opening it when I saw the numbers in those little “bubbles” — you know, the number of new emails or the number of new FB posts show up on your Home Screen. They had to go too.
So, I went to my phone Settings/Notifications and stopped notifications for FB and email. I’d never had notifications turned on for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Google Drive and Google Maps. But FB and eMail were umbilical cords to the wider world. I’d never before even considered turning them off. But I did.
I also turned off notifications for the App Store, my Calendar, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger (why do folks use that as the new email?), and all my various News outlets. If I was ready to read the mail, I’d open it myself and read it.
Second, I noticed quickly how selective I became in what I Liked, Shared, or Commented on while in FB. The clock was ticking, after all. After email, I usually had about 10 minutes for FB; I needed to be much more discriminating in what I opened, what I read through, and what I commented on.
On Day 3, I began noticing what I was missing. For example, one of the FB groups I participate in, Women Writers Womens’ Books, does a “Friday Like My Page Day.” It’s a great way to have my FB Author Page seen and garner an additional 10 – 20 new Likes. But, since reciprocity is key, opening and Liking many other author pages wasn’t going to work. So, for the duration of this experiment, I stayed away. I’ve written the leader to suggest the newbies raise their hands in some virtual way, but haven’t heard back from her.
Fourth, I tried a variation by breaking my two 30-minute spans into four 15-min segments. That was a bust and I went quickly back to the 30-minute stretches. Fifteen minutes is simply not enough time to peruse never mind actually read any shared articles all the way through. In fact, there were many days when I spent 45 minutes on social media rather than the mere 30; but I did so consciously.
Fifth, I became even more mindful of the pull my cell phone had on me. I tend to do social media on my phone; leaving my computer for writing. This awareness brought a new self-talk. I began asking myself
What’s my goal; what is it I want to accomplish by checking my phone?
Am I bored?
Do I have something I really want to share?
Am I eager to see who I might connect with?
Am I looking for a distraction? If so, from what?
That was eye-opening.
I realize this siren song will never be over for me. Like the alcoholic in recovery who never claims she’s “recovered,” I too will need to stay vigilant daily. Perhaps it’s more like a food addiction or codependency (defined here as a focus on relationships to the detriment of your own sanity) where one can’t just abstain. Food addicts still need to eat; they learn how to negotiate that minefield. Codependents can’t just become hermits; we are social animals after all.
Choice, conscious choice is key. As with social media.
Again, it’s a one-day-at-a-time negotiating process. So, here’s my new process (when I remember) when I’m drawn to my phone. It’s as simple as 1 2 3. (Ha!)
- I’ll stop and ask myself why. What’s the urge?
- Then, I’ll name it: am I
eager to see if my post got any traffic?
Do I need information that is only in the phone?
3. I’ll ask myself what would happen if I simply waited for ten minutes? Usually, by the time ten minutes is up, I’ve moved on to something else.
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